My Take: This division features two teams (Anaheim and Salem) that I will be shocked if they don't both make the playoffs. With the other two teams in rebuild mode, the divisional race will come down to those two. Anaheim was one of the busiest teams in the offseason and Salem still brings back most of the team that had the best record in NCAA last season. Its really a coinflip between the two, but with Salem winning the division the last two seasons, we're going to give the nod to the Beavers. Just like in the NL East, "to be the man, you have to beat the man." Both teams will make the playoffs and Seattle/Oakland will continue to re-tool.
1. Salem Beavers
2. Anaheim Trojans
3. Oakland Golden Bears
4. Seattle Huskies
FA Losses: Groucho Duncan (1B), Paul Fujiwara (SP), Victor Melo (3B), Ivan Montanez (RP), Valerio James (SP)
FA Additions: N/A
Non-Tenders: Mel Brock (SS), Stretch Griffey (C)
Trade Losses: Ben Brown (3B), Julian Cortes (CF), Harry Turner (SS), Angel Trevino (SP)
Trade Additions: Dante Thompson (1B), Miguel Barcelo (SP), Ben Jackson (SS),
Rookies: Ebenezer Zimmerman (3B), Tomas Lira (C), Jorge Tavarez (CF)
C: 3-time All-Star slugger Larry Sedlacek remains the starter. Tomas Lira figures to be better both offensively and defensively over Stretch Griffey as a backup. Slight upgrade.
1B: 6-time MVP/10-time All- Star Dante Thompson takes over for Groucho Duncan at first. Darrin Williams adds depth. Significant upgrade.
2B: 3-time All-Star Justin Boyd returns to play second and bat leadoff. No change.
SS: Silver Slugger Ben Jackson takes over at SS replacing solid defender Harry Turner. Significant upgrade.
3B: Top Prospect Ebenezer Zimmerman takes over at 3B for Ben Brown. Slight upgrade.
LF: 2-time All-Star David Cordero returns following a career year. No change.
CF: Rookie Jorge Tavarez steps in for Julian Cortes and will provide a defensive upgrade. It will be interesting to see if Tavarez can match Cortes' disappointing numbers. Slight downgrade.
RF: Allie Plesac and Darrin Williams look to split time in RF this season. Slight upgrade.
SP: Miguel Barcelo immediately becomes the ace of the staff and becomes the dominant starter Anaheim has been lacking. All-Stars Jake Randolph, Dick Bailey, and Turner Evans return. Luis Santana steps in as the 5th starter. Staff upgraded and more suited for post-season.
Bullpen: All-Star closer David Moreno returns along with former Fireman of the Year Adrian Kendall, All-Star Miguel Sanchez, and lefty Lawrence Wilson. Several spots up for grabs.
Outlook: Anything less than a WS run will be a disappointment in Anaheim this year. The everyday lineup has improved quite a bit, and the rotation has been transformed and is better suited for post-season success. There are some question marks in the bullpen, and depth could be an issue if the injury bug strikes. High expectations in Anaheim this season.
After 10 seasons of futility, the Mariners have taken a step forward from "bordering on mediocre" to "solidly mediocre." Despite high draft choices almost every season, Seattle had a remarkably thin farm system going into Season 11. The decision was made to trade any marketable Major League talent and go back to the drawing board.
In a calculated gamble, Seattle traded now and future stud Miguel Barcelo to division rival Anaheim. In return, the Mariners received two 23-year-old SP's and a 22-yar-old reliever. All three should help in the long run.
Still on the market are five tool All-Star Erik Haynes, All-Star and former ROY SP Larry Miller, All-Star SP Roberto Johnson and LF Andrea Nelson - 1.017 OPS in 520+ plate appearances in Season 9.
It promises to be another long season in Seattle (is there any other kind?) and the Mariners first fan promotion will be "Paper Bag Night" in anticipation of the season ahead.
Oakland Golden Bears
Not too much changed with the team. Shed some payroll and only made a couple aquisitions. Signed Phillip Larson and John Liang. Claimed Marty Wayne off waivers. And drafted Stephen Parrish and Pascual Alarcon from the rule 5 draft but will probably end up dropping them.
A powerful lineup should continue to produce. The order will be anchored by top leadoff man Jack Nicholas 2B who had a breakout season ( 22HR 64SB 143RS ) . Bill Morton RF knocked 53 and should continue to produce with Ivan Martis DH(32HR) and Wes Cyr (43HR 37 SB ) protecting him in the lineup. Hopes in Salem are that Kid Torre 1B can cover most of the offence lost by Carl Riggan and his 130RBI
The staff is still strong but not as young as it once was. The starters are strong with Vic Escobar SP ( 16-6 3.43ERA ) ,Gene Schneider SP ( 18-6 ) ,Al Valdes ( 19-5 3.5ERA ) and Octavio Rivera SP(14-5 3.4ERA ). Beyond closer Jose Sierra RP ( 46 Saves 2.81 ERA ) the bullpen is full of questions and could be the teams Achilles heel
The Beavers were once again treated to an early playoff exit. They were a regular season powerhouse, and that should continue into this year. The win totals will be lower due to the notable improvments to Anaheim's lineup and the teams should compete for the division and best record in the AL. The team has never won a playoff series though at some point by probability they will and perhaps that is this year.
Key Additions: Kid Torre 1B ( 30HR 96RBI 22SB )
Key Losses: Kiki Vazquez RP (3.31 career ERA ), Diego Nieto RP ( Career 4.03 ERA ), Carl Riggan RF ( 108 RS 36HR 130RBI .312 Ave .974 OPS )
Potential Impact Rookies: Ken Pfeffer RP ( 3.54ERA in AAA ), Chip Leonard LF ( 32HR .320BA 1.042 OPS in AAA )